The Wound: Violence, Trauma, Cure
German 580, English 552
Since antiquity, epic and tragic performance has been a therapeutic space. Poems and dramas represent violence and woundedness and they purportedly aim to help people cope with the inevitable afflictions of the human condition. How does the re-staging of brutal suffering figure as a hope for its cure? In this seminar, we will explore all three aspects of the wound: the violence that causes it; the trauma of its pain; and the possibility of treatment. To do so, we will read epic poems, tragedies, and an opera that rework myths from the Trojan War to represent wounds of battle, gender, slavery, displacement, and colonialism. We will investigate epic poetry and tragedy both as performative art and as texts. Authors include: Sophocles, Kleist, Derek Walcott, Anne Carson, and Ursula Krechel. We will also study theoretical interventions on trauma by Ruth Leys, Cathy Caruth, Gilles Deleuze, and others. Additionally, we’ll observe the recent use of Greek tragedy for PTSD therapy by the “Theater of War” project.
On the first day of class, we will discuss a variety of assignment possibilities (including a traditional seminar paper or the organization of a conference panel) in order to determine what fits best with student interests and needs.
Discussions in English. Reading in original languages encouraged but not required: all texts are available in translation. [See course book information here.]
CFP for Graduate Student Conference:
Images (clockwise from upper left):
- "The suicide of Ajax," Etrurian red-figured calyx-krater (ca. 400–350 BCE)
- "Penthesilea and Achilles" (1998), illustration by Maurice Sendak for Kleist's Penthesilea (1808)
- "After Omeros 5," Francesco Clamente (2016)
- Photo from Norma Jean Baker of Troy, by Anne Carson, performed by Renee Fleming and Ben Wishow, The Shed, Los Angeles (2019)